What Lionel Messi Has Taught Neymar at Barcelona
Lionel Messi and Neymar may very well turn out to be one of the greatest duos in the history of football. The Barcelona pair have not hit their stride together yet, but it is coming.
Neymar's progression at the Catalan club has been something great to watch. He is still very much the player he was at Santos, yet a lot of things have changed. Playing and practicing with Messi obviously helps.
It is easy to see that the Argentine is already beginning to leave his mark on his young Brazilian teammate. Learning from the best is only going to help Neymar become a more complete player, and the sky really is the limit for him.
In this article, we will take a look at a few things that Messi has already taught Neymar at Barcelona. There is a lot to choose from so be sure to have your say below.
All statistics are courtesy of WhoScored.com.
How to Hold Up Play
When Neymar first arrived in Barcelona, he was playing football his way. The Brazilian was very direct and was always looking to take the ball straight at goal.
Since then, the 22-year-old has learned how to balance his play. Though he is still very direct, averaging over three dribbles per game, he now knows the importance of being patient and slowing things down.
It is not uncommon to see Neymar hold onto the ball on the wing and link up with teammates instead of going straight into the box every time he has the ball. This has allowed him to develop his passing game even more, making him a much deadlier player.
Playing in Barcelona's system requires a forward to have patience and balance. Neymar did not have that when he first arrived, but he clearly does now.
How to Protect Himself
Neymar's small frame and willingness to play with the ball at his feet has put a large target on his back for quite some time. Players are still targeting the Brazilian today, but he isn't suffering as much from it.
Messi, the king of dodging tackles, has clearly helped Neymar learn how to protect himself from defenders.
Think back to Neymar's early days with Barcelona. The Brazilian was getting hit nearly every time he touched the ball, and he was such an obvious target that fans were wondering if the referees would do anything to stop it.
Today, Neymar is tackled an average of three times per match. Neymar does not go down nearly as much as he did in the early part of the season, and Messi's influence has a lot to do with that.
Tracking Back Is a Valuable Quality
Neymar is not a defensive-minded forward. To put it lightly, the Brazilian often refused to track back and help his teammates defend while playing for Santos.
Today, Neymar is definitely part of the team. Barcelona's idea of defending as a unit has rubbed off on the Brazilian, and Messi has clearly showed him how important it is to fall back into the midfield to help his team.
Neymar is not afraid to make a tackle or challenge an opponent. It is odd now to see him stay forward when Barcelona are on the defensive as he has become a very hardworking member of the squad.
Messi has perfected the art of dropping into the midfield to help his team. Neymar is still learning that trick, but his willingness to work hard off the ball has blossomed at Barcelona.
How to Make an Impact
Let's be honest: Neymar has been making an impact on games since he was a kid. However, at Barcelona, he has learned the importance of stepping up when everything is going wrong.
The Brazilian has already scored big goals this season against the likes of Real Madrid and has shown his talents in the Champions League. Yet, he has also played a big part in some of the club's biggest goals this year without being the finisher.
Messi makes an impact on every game with or without the ball. Just his presence and ability to help teammates sparkle makes the club the better, and Neymar has already learned that.
He has only scored 10 goals this season which is a bit low considering what was expected. Yet, he has also managed to dish out 11 assists and put in countless key passes throughout the season.
Neymar has definitely learned how to change a game and impact the outcome in different ways. He doesn't have to score every goal because he can help his teammates step up. He does need to score more, but he is doing other things very well.
How to Do This
Yes, this is a bit of a joke. Of course Messi hasn't taught Neymar how to point to the sky in celebration; countless players do this every day. But the message is still the same.
Neymar has matured during his time at Barcelona. He isn't the raw kid from Brazil anymore; he is now a grown man who has become very humble and respected as a complete footballer.
Talent and ability go a long way in every sport, but a person's character can define their entire career. Messi has always been known as a humble player, and this quality has already made a big impact on Neymar as a person.
This Barcelona duo have everything needed to become the best tandem in football. They aren't there yet, but just imagine what more time together will do for them and the club.
What all has Messi taught Neymar? Has Neymar actually taught Messi a thing or two? Leave your thoughts and comments below!